OpenDNS: We’re Being Blocked

OpenDNS was founded in 2006 and quickly made a lot of fans around here due to their fast, reliable DNS servers and DNS services. It has been a profitable business; in 2008 it was estimated that OpenDNS generates a whopping $20,000 per day off of their DNS redirection relationship with Yahoo. Every DNS outage over the last four years effectively acted as an advertisement for OpenDNS, and the company has grown substantially — now serving roughly 20 million users.

As ISPs slowly discovered that OpenDNS was eroding a possible revenue stream (redirection portal ads), many ISPs rushed to offer DNS redirection systems of their own — with various degrees of success. Most ISPs were so blinded by the cash, they implemented the service without adding value, tools, or even informing users. A number of ISPs didn’t bother to make sure the “opt out” process worked (cough, Embarq) and others didn’t offer “clean” DNS servers for users who didn’t want to participate.

Some ISPs may now begin taking a harder stance, if this Washington Post interview with OpenDNS founder David Ulevitch is any indication. According to Ulevitch, OpenDNS is being blocked by Verizon Wireless already, and Ulevitch is concerned that a growing number of landline broadband ISPs are going to begin doing this as well to protect their coffers:

They do not want to see DNS traffic, queries and data streams leaving them. In the way we have monetized domain name services, they want to do what we do. But they aren’t an opt-in service like we are, and they can also block us, which is what we are concerned about. And they try to block us in crafty ways. There was a report of an ISP working group whose members said that for “security” reasons, they should block alternative DNS services.

This raises an interesting neutrality situation we’ll need to keep an eye on, given that ISPs who block OpenDNS will certainly try to insist it’s about security, not money (and will certainly have cherry picked data pie charts to “prove” it). Granted, OpenDNS could just do what companies like Skype and Google have been doing recently — and throw their neutrality principles out the window in exchange for large bags of money and exclusive service partnerships

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